4 Educational Principles of Podcasting: PERR

by Anton Helman, MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP



We know that people who listen to medical education podcasts listen mostly when they are driving or exercising. It is impossible for the listener to give their full attention while doing these activities.  Add to this our vast digital world growing in parallel with our increasingly distracted minds, podcasters need, not only to integrate tried and true general educational principles, but also keep the listener’s attention.


You can maximizes the chances that listeners will pay attention, reflect on, and remember the key points of your podcast by integrating the following 4 principles with the mnemonic PERR: Persuade, Entertain, Repeat and Reflect…like a cat!



While you don’t want to come across like a used car salesmen, if you’re not persuasive in your podcast, people won’t believe a word you’re saying.

Being persuasive requires establishing credibility, framing to find common ground, connecting emotionally and providing vivid evidence.

To establish credibility you need to introduce the listeners to whom they are listening to and why they are experts in whatever you’re going to talk about.

Framing to find common ground allows the listener to relate to what you are saying. For example, rather than simply telling your audience “nitroglycerin is the first line medication in acute decompensated heart failure”, you can frame the situation so they can relate to what you’re talking about – “you know when that patient comes crashing into your resuscitation room frothing at the mouth in acute decompensated heart failure – you want to think about rapidly decreasing preload and nitroglycerin should be the first drug you consider”.

Framing to find common ground sometimes, by nature, provides for the next element of persuasion – connecting emotionally. Your listener is more likely to relate to what you are saying if they are emotionally charged when listening to your podcast. Usually if you simply just be yourself, you will connect emotionally. You can use humour or storytelling, but you need to figure out your own style that sounds natural.

Once you have established credibility, common ground and emotionally connected with your listener, you can drive home your point with vivid evidence for what you have said. This doesn’t have to be a systematic review or meta-analysis. It can be simply a clearly delivered argument. This caps off being Persuasive in our PERR mnemonic.



It was the great Canadian media philosopher Marshal McLuhan, who anticipated the internet revolution way before it started, who famously said “anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either”.  This doesn’t mean telling jokes every two minutes. It means being enthusiastic, ensuring variety and allowing the listener mental breaks.



Being enthusiastic is infectious to the people around you. If are enthusiastic and passionate about your subject matter, it will come across in your podcast. Conversely if you are bored with your topic, the listener will be too.  A boring, uninteresting, monotone voice puts you’re listeners to sleep.

Variety can be applied to boost the entertainment value in just about everything on a podcast: variety in your tone of voice, the speed of speaking, in the content of what you’re saying, in different people speaking, sound effects, jingles and music. Variety helps keep the listeners attention. Closely related to variety is giving your listeners mental breaks so that they can absorb what you’re saying. This can be in the form of a musical bumper, a joke or even a couple seconds of silence.



Repetition in a podcast is key because sometimes when we’re listening to a podcast we don’t catch what the podcaster is saying the first time around, and when the content is repeated it helps etch what ever is being said into our brains. Think about defining only 3 clear goals or objectives at the beginning of the podcast and come back to them in your review at the end of the podcast. By defining objectives clearly, rephrasing important points and reviewing key points the listener is better able to remember what is being said. And one other key element for effectively using repetition in your podcast is rephrasing. When you repeat something give it a slightly different lens so that the listener can ponder for himself or herself what you’re saying.



Using cases, Q&As and some mental breaks for listeners can all help them reflect on what is being said. This is where the real learning happens. That’s why cases are so great for learning – because listeners can imagine themselves in the same situation which forces them to think about what they would do, and then adjust what they would do based on what you’re teaching them. It’s like doing a simulation in your head.

If your listeners can reflect on what’s being said by using cases, Q&A and some silence after the “punch line” for them to think, they will better be able to integrate what is being said into their existing knowledge. Silence in podcasts is key. Don’t be afraid to pause for a couple of seconds after you’ve given the punch line or said something important. People can’t think and listen very efficiently at the same time while they are driving or exercising. They need to think about what you said to make it stick.


Take home points

 4 Educational Principles of podcasting – PERR (like a cat)

  1. Persuade – a) establish credibility b) framing to find common ground c) providing vivid evidence d) connecting emotionally
  2. Entertain – a) be enthusiastic b) variety c) mental breaks
  3. Repeat – a) define objectives, b) rephrasing c) review
  4. Reflect – a) cases b) Q&A c) use silence/pauses for listeners to think


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